FC Barcelona began their UEFA Futsal Cup title defence in record-breaking style while FC Litija, MFK Dinamo, Murcia FS, Kairat Almaty and KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac also opened the elite round with wins.
Barcelona lifted the trophy at their first attempt last season and, as one of the seeds given a bye to this stage, were keen to start Group A in Lasko well. And indeed they did, beating MNK Split 18-0, the biggest ever elite round victory. Eleven of the goals came before the break and in the end all ten outfield players registered, including four for Igor, three by Sergio Lozano and one for last term's finals top scorer Wilde, just back from four weeks out injured.
In the same section it seemed former semi-finalists Araz Naxçivan would set up a likely decider against Barcelona tomorrow when they led hosts Litija 3-0 at the interval. But the amateurs from Slovenia produced a remarkable comeback, initiated when Alen Fetič pulled one back on 24 minutes. Gašper Vrhovec struck on the half-hour and with four minutes left Fetič equalised. Finally Damir Pertič exchanged a double pass with Milivoje Simeunović to put Litija ahead, before Fetič sealed his hat-trick and a 5-3 triumph as he shot into an unguarded net.
The previous authors of the record elite round win (12-0 v Iberia Star Tbilisi three years ago), 2008 runners-up Murcia FS, themselves had to survive an Energy Lviv fightback to open Group C with an 8-3 victory. Staging the group and making their seasonal bow as the pool's top seeds, Murcia were five goals in front late in the first half, including two from Miguelín. But Sergiy Koval reduced the arrears ten seconds before half-time and Denys Ovsyannikov and Maxym Pavlenko made it interesting after the break, before Tiago Carpes netted twice to complete his treble and Franklin removed all doubt.
As expected, this group could go down to Murcia's Sunday encounter with last term's runners-up MFK Dinamo. The Russian champions, who lifted the UEFA Futsal Cup at the Pabellón de Deportes in 2007, returned to the arena to see off FK Nikars Riga 7-2, with Fernandinho on target twice.
Aiming for a fifth semi-final appearance, seeds Kairat Almaty are top of Group B thanks to a dominant 5-1 success against Slov-Matic Bratislava. Kairat stormed into a three-goal lead within 11 minutes as their Slovakian opponents looked to attack, then added second-half strikes from Leo Santana and, in the final minute, Serik Zhamankulov.
Serbian hosts KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac gained an important 4-1 win over experienced FK EP Chrudim, breaking the deadlock after 33 seconds through Jakov Grcić. Chrudim tried a flying goalkeeper early in the second half but Mladen Kocić, Slobodan Janjić and goalkeeper Miodrag Aksentijević all scored to delight the large and noisy home crowd.
Matches in all three groups continue tomorrow, when Group D also begins in Tbilisi, featuring 2010 winners SL Benfica. The four section winners will progress to the finals in late April.
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